STOCKHOLM • The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) has been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize, endorsing a group working to ban such weapons at a time when nuclear sabre-rattling between the United States and North Korea has reached fever pitch.
"The organisation is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons," the Oslo-based Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement yesterday.
The prize also acknowledges Ican's "ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons", it said.
The group, which is a coalition of non-governmental organisations in 100 countries, was formed about a decade ago to promote the implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapons ban treaty.
This global agreement was adopted in New York in July, but has failed to find the backing of the world's superpowers and many of its allies.
The committee said yesterday it is aware that an international legal prohibition will not in itself eliminate nuclear weapons, and that "so far neither the states that already have nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear weapons ban treaty".
The prize is "a call upon these states to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world", the committee said.
TIME TO ACT IS NOW
The spectre of nuclear conflict looms large once more. If ever there was a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now.
THE INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The time to ban nuclear weapons is now, Ican said in a statement after the announcement of the award.
"This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror", the Geneva-based group said in a statement.
Calling the Nobel award a great honour, Ican added: "The spectre of nuclear conflict looms large once more. If ever there was a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now."
Concerns about a nuclear conflict in North Asia have increased as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accelerates his programme of acquiring weapons capable of hitting the continental United States, and as President Donald Trump threatens pre-emptive military action.
In cryptic remarks on Thursday while posing for photographs with military leaders, Mr Trump said the gathering might represent "the calm before the storm".
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said last month that the regime's possible next steps include testing a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.
The Nobel Peace Prize, along with prizes in fields including literature, physics, medicine, was created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and first awarded in 1901.
Past winners include Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was last year's laureate, as well as former US president Barack Obama and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The Nobel Peace Prize, which comes with a gold medal and a cheque for nine million Swedish kronor (S$1.5 million), will be presented in Oslo on Dec 10.
BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE